Mission: Reset My Body

I’m going on a scary diet!

Now, before you start going all “What do you need to diet for?” and “Just eat what you want and be happy”, let me explain.

I’ve been suffering from bad acid reflux for many years now. In fact, I’ve had digestion problems all my adult life but it was only in the last few weeks that it got bad enough for me to take serious action.

I’ve seen my doctor a lot over the years because I have a laundry list of ailments. She would keep sending me for blood tests and the results would show normal levels of everything and she would be, like, you’re fine and healthy. Then she’d give me medication to treat symptoms. But the problems always come back.

 

Angry cat

 

Recently, I came across this article and thought it made a lot of sense (all six parts of the article).

The author, Chris Kresser, a prominent practitioner of alternative medicine, suggests that acid reflux and heartburn are caused by insufficient acid and bacterial overgrowth in the stomach. And this, in turn, is caused by consuming food that is unfriendly to human digestion.

I really relate to that because I know what foods trigger acid reflux in me and what foods give me indigestion and bloating.

 

Screenshot of website

 

In his book, The Paleo Cure, the author talks about all the different types of food and why they are (or aren’t) meant to be eaten.

(If you’re in the UK, you want to look at Your Personal Paleo Diet, which is the same book but using UK terms and measurements.)

 

The Paleo Cure

 

Reading the book, I realised that I do get digestion problems whenever I eat foods in the “unfriendly” food group, such as wheat products (bread, pasta, pastries), dairy (cheese, milk, cream), deep-fried food using industrial oil, and legumes (soy products and things like edamame beans).

I also realised that I had only started getting my laundry list of ailments after moving to the UK and adopting a more British diet.

If you’re familiar with the paleo diet, then you know what I’m talking about. If not, here’s a cartoon to explain it.

 

Click it to read the whole thing:

Paleo cartoon

 

So, I’m going to do a 30-day paleo reset diet as set out in Chris Kresser’s book.

For 30 days, I will not eat anything that has been proven to cause an inflammatory response in the body because, to put it very simply, the human body is not equipped to digest these items properly:

 

    Dairy products.
    Grain products and all gluten-free substitutes.
    Pulses/legumes (beans and peas and their products).
    Sweeteners, natural and artificial. (Only fruits are allowed.)
    Chocolate.
    Processed/refined food.
    Industrial seed oil.
    Fizzy drinks, fruit juice and alcohol.
    Processed sauces and seasonings.

 

These foods cause inflammatory responses in the body to varying degrees in everyone. We’re all different because our bodies have evolved different degrees of tolerances to different foods, but even if we’ve evolved a tolerance, it still means the body prefers not to have it.

If you keep overloading your body with food it prefers not to have, it will break down eventually.

This is important to know because inflammatory responses in the body lead to a whole host of ailments from small ones (eczema, acne, indigestion, depression, weight gain, etc) to the big scary ones (diabetes, cancer, heart disease, etc).

So, the idea of the diet is that you reset your health by eating only body-friendly food for 30 days. After that, you slowly reintroduce the “body-unfriendly” food groups one by one to see how your body reacts to each. In this way, you can find out your tolerance levels for everything.

Going forward, if you want to live with optimal health and not succumb to scary diseases, you tweak your diet so that you try to eat wholesome food at least 80% of the time (if not 100%), but you can eat the other foods you can tolerate, 20% of the time, otherwise it’s too impractical and you could never eat out!

 

Salmon, sweet potato and kale
Baked wild Alaskan salmon (with ginger and garlic); baked sweet potato; crispy Pentland Brig kale

 

I started easing into a paleo diet two weeks ago and found that acid reflux doesn’t happen when I eat right. When I eat the wrong food, it comes right back.

Like, one day, I had hummus and crispy flatbread for lunch, thinking it was kind of healthy, but got a really severe case of reflux that lasted 12 hours (until I finally managed to fall asleep.) Then I read the book and realised chick peas and wheat are inflammatory agents.

I will finish my easing-in period by the end of the week and start the proper 30-day reset diet on June 19!

A couple more paleo meals I’ve made:

 

chicken, sweet potato and courgettes
Baked chicken thighs with mushroom and onion; Baked sweet potato; Baked courgettes

 

Eggs, mushroom and kale
Scrambled eggs; Stir-fry chestnut mushrooms and Pentland Brig kale

 

It’s really not too bad, and there are a lot of tasty meals to eat in paleo. But there is an adjustment period where I start craving bread and pasta, and even chocolates and cakes (which I had already stopped eating and craving for two months.)

The main deterrent is the time it takes to cook meals every day since you cannot eat food that comes packaged nicely in the supermarket, and you cannot eat out because restaurants might use “unfriendly” seasonings and oils.

But it has got to a “do or die” point, so I’m going to have to stick with it. If you’re also suffering health problems that won’t go away, perhaps you want to join me? :P

Also, please like and follow my Facebook page if you’d like to see regular updates on my diet because I won’t be blogging about it too much.

Wish me luck! :)

 

 

For my grandmother

My grandmother passed away last week at age 98. She was my paternal grandmother, my last surviving grandparent.

I wasn’t going to write about it because I felt it was a bit morbid, and also pretentious, since I had failed to appreciate her adequately in the last decade or so.

But I didn’t get to say goodbye to her officially (wasn’t able to attend the funeral in Singapore) and continued thinking about her through the weekend, so I thought I’d say a few words as a goodbye.

 

I didn’t have a particularly close relationship with my grandmother because we never lived together and, for a large part of my life, I only saw her once a year during Chinese New Year.

Also, we didn’t speak the same language. I could speak a bit of her language (Teochew, a Chinese dialect) but at a laughable child’s level. We communicated sometimes in Mandarin but we were both rubbish at it. My relatives used to laugh at me (affectionately) when I was little, saying I sounded like a Caucasian trying to speak Mandarin.

Still, I remember my grandmother as a caring and hardworking woman with a sense of humour. I don’t have any specifics, but I do remember moments when she would tease her grandchildren and laugh at our cute foibles.

 

My main memory of her is of the time when I was 21 and in hospital for surgery to remove a bone tumour. I was only in there for about a week, but she came to see me every day and brought me tonics she’d lovingly boiled.

After I was discharged, she came to stay so she could look after me while I recuperated. She cooked me nutritious, healing meals and helped with chores around the house until I was well again.

I didn’t know that was typical of the care she showed all her children and grandchildren until I read stories about her from my cousins in Facebook. I mean, I never really thought about what she was doing with her life since I was all wrapped up in my own world. I guess she went around a lot, helping whomever needed help. And it was probably a lot of going around because she had 10 children and 28 grandchildren.

 

I’m guilty of not having ever made the effort to spend time with her and get to know her. I didn’t know how to, not just because of the language barrier but because I grew up not having the ability to have a conversation with anyone (Asperger Syndrome).

All the same, I’m thankful that she loved me unconditionally, anyway.

Thank you, ah ma. I’m sorry I could never have told you this in person, but I appreciate everything you did for your family. May you rest in peace now.

 

 

 

The exploding egg

I tried to microwave a hard-boiled egg yesterday.

Ah. I can see half of you widening your eyes in anticipation, perhaps even starting to chuckle.

Yes! Okay! I know! I actually did kind of know about exploding eggs in microwaves. I just didn’t know enough. I had peeled and broken my egg in two unequal parts, with the yolk showing, and I thought that would make it okay.

I thought wrong. The smaller part of my egg exploded all over the microwave with a loud, scary bang after about 40 seconds. I don’t know how the average person usually reacts to such an event, but my first thought was, “OMG how much cleaning is that going to be?!”

About 10 minutes’ worth, is how much. There was egg white everywhere. Top, bottom, left, right, front and back. Tiny little itty bits of egg white splattered all over the walls of the surfaces, each bit claiming its own square inch. Luckily the yolk was still intact because it’s my favourite part!

 

Comic: Microwaving an egg

 

This morning, I googled how to reheat hard boiled eggs (because I still had more cooked eggs in the fridge). The advice is: Pour boiling water over your eggs and cover for 10 minutes.

Then what is the point of making extra eggs to eat for breakfast!

Sorry, I’m having a rant. I thought I was being clever cooking up three days’ worth of eggs in advance so I could save time cooking them the next two breakfasts!

In the end, reheating eggs takes as long as cooking them from scratch, whether you take the microwave route or the sensible boiling route!!

I could cover my eggs with a microwave lid so it wouldn’t make a mess, but the bang scares me, plus I read about eggs exploding into people’s face while they’re trying to eat them.

Oh, HAHA. I just suddenly remembered I wrote a piece of poetry about omelettes 13 years ago. It’s my Ode to a Leftover Omelette. Read it here.

(If you don’t want to read the story explaining why I wrote it, just scroll all the way down to the bottom.)

 

Ode to a Leftover Omelette

 

Do you think I have a future as a poet, if not a cook?

 

 

Tricked into being happy

Gratitude and positivity: These were poisonous words to me not so long ago.

I mean it in the way that loud music and bright lights are abhorrent to someone with a hangover.

When you’re suffering from depression, you don’t want to hear it. Overly happy people make you cringe. Motivational memes are as appealing as a hot poker in your face. People reminding you to be grateful for what you have makes you want to shoot someone. Then you feel bad for being such an ungrateful douchebag that you get even more depressed.

 

Know It All

At that time, I already knew the theories about mental illness and associated treatments. (I’d done a lot of psychology classes and read extensively.)

I also attended cognitive behavioural therapy sessions where they try to force positivity into your head by telling you to think differently. Just like that.

Occasionally, when I read articles saying, “When you’re having a lousy day, smile. That action will trick your mind into being happy,” I would make myself try it.

I would genuinely gave it a shot.

But it would be like, geez, you look like an idiot.

I knew the supposed solutions to depression. But depression splits your mind. You think:

  1. I desperately want to be fixed.
  2. I’m scared to be fixed because I don’t want to change who I am.
  3. I’m terrified to find out that I’m unfixable.

As much as I knew I should, I was unable to respond to lessons on gratitude and positivity.

 

Gratitude
Appreciating and feeling thankful for all the good in your life and life in general.

Positivity
Focusing on the good so you don’t get dragged down by the bad; choosing happiness over sadness.

 

Easy peasy? I knew I was just one mindset away from the shackles of depression, but it was as good as a giant leap across the Grand Canyon. It’s easy to be grateful and think positive when you’re already happy or, at least, feel some sort of contentment. Not so when you’re depressed and angry.

So, what happened to me? Because one day I woke up and found that I’d made that leap overnight, probably in my sleep.

 

Crossing the impossible chasm

I believe I got tricked into it. I can’t think of a better explanation for how I went from wanting to die to being happy in a matter of two days.

I’ve already explained everything in this long post so I will just summarise now. One day, I came across this product called SELF Journal and tried it out of curiosity. This is what it did to me almost immediately:

  1. Gave me a sudden sense of purpose as I went to work on some short-term goals I’d decided on.
  2. Working on goals made me forget to be depressed and angry.
  3. Being forced to write six things I’m grateful for (very tough, this one) tricked my mind into feeling grateful.
  4. Writing down what I did well that day forced me to love myself a little.
  5. Writing down how I can improve something from the day made me believe there’s hope.

Here’s what my first day looks like. Pardon the scraggly handwriting; my first journal was a PDF on my iPad using Apple Pencil to write (very challenging).

 

Screenshot of SELF Journal page

 

My first day didn’t go very well and I had a morning meltdown. Still, I tried to salvage the day, and filled in the journal dutifully at the end of the day.

The next day, I woke up feeling ridiculously happy and excited.

Without warning.

I can’t even explain it adequately. It was like magic.

Maybe it’s that physically writing down things I’m grateful for flicked a switch in my mind akin to drawing the curtains in a dark room. I think physical writing was key here because I had tried being grateful in my mind, in the past, but it never worked when I was depressed.

It’s been 53 days since I started using the SELF journal, which means I have written down about 400 things I’m grateful for (I try not to repeat things). And, I think, day by day, this exercise is drawing the curtains in my mind wider and wider. Maybe the curtain has even been ripped off completely, leaving me in perpetual brightness.

I feel actual happiness these days. Even joy.

 

Support System

I won’t claim that practising gratitude cured my depression on its own. I think what it did was made me receptive to outside help. I’d always shouldered pain on my own and tried to solve problems myself because that’s how I felt comfortable. So it was a huge surprise to learn how good it feels to have help and support.

It was even a bit magical the way things came together seamlessly:

  1. I found the journal, which has a support network in the form of a community of friendly and helpful people, everyone focused on self-actualisation.
  2. I had my bestie, Workaholic Wen, to whom I showed the journal and who was so enthusiastic about the idea that we decided to start doing it together, and keep each other on the right track.
  3. At just the right time, my GP referred me to a self-management coach who figured out the one book I had to read to start healing the main thing that was causing my depression.
  4. I had a loving husband who’s always supported me through all my short-lived obsessions, never judging when I lose interest, but offering full support for the next obsession. I now realise that his patience allowed me the space to find myself, in my own time, in a safe environment.

There have been several times in my life when, after a long series of challenging events, things would fall into place suddenly, magically, and I would walk into an outcome I could never have imagined.

As much pain and suffering as I’ve gone through in my life so far (and might still have to go through), as much as I’ve wanted to die so often, now that life has brought me once again into a wondrous end of chapter, I see that I am blessed.

 

Piers and Sheylara watching fish in the sea

 

 

The day I woke up to a voice in my head

It’s been over a month since a journal saved my life, and I’m happy to report that I’m still very much in the business of staying alive, although it’s getting increasingly hard because I’m averaging six hours of sleep a day and my body hates me.

But never mind the body for now. Here’s a quick status report:

  1. I have unfailingly woken up at 7 am or earlier (and stayed awake) every day for over a month — a heretofore impossible feat for me, prompting Piers to call me a weirdo.
  2. I crushed my one-month goal of decluttering my home and my life, in the process unearthing such treasures as 4-year-old e-mails from friends I forgot to reply to, and missing odd socks.
  3. I feel happy and positive 95% of the time. The other 5% says I’m not ready for nirvana. But I’m still young…ish and in no hurry.
  4. I had another epiphany the other day, telling me quite clearly what I must do for the rest of my life (besides striving for nirvana but, to be honest, I’m not sure I want to).
  5. Notwithstanding these amazing accomplishments, I am still quite muddle-headed.

 

The Incident

Last Thursday, I was cooking lunch, a simple meal of instant noodles, a large handful of tenderstem broccoli and a hard-boiled egg.

I cooked the egg first, then peeled it and set it aside while waiting for my noodles and vegetables to cook (4 minutes). Noodles done, I seasoned it and took it to the table.

I ate my lunch watching a Korean drama, then spent 20 minutes in Facebook. Total: 40 minutes.

It was time to get to work! I cleared my dishes and went to the kitchen, piling stuff in the sink and saw… a peeled hard-boiled egg sitting on an overturned saucepan lid.

“Why is there an egg here?” I wondered in actual surprise.

Cue facepalms and eyerolls.

 

Happy Fuel

I realised then that I had completely run out of happy fuel. Every last drop had been exhausted.

Remember, previously, I had described how my new lifestyle had made me sleep-deprived for weeks? And how I was subsisting on positive feelings generated by my positive lifestyle change?

This happy fuel eventually burned out. Of course it would. “Happy fuel” is not a medically acceptable form of fuel for the sustenance of life. The universe must have realised I was being tricky, trying to upturn the laws of nature, so put its foot down.

I was muddleheaded and distracted for days, although I did try my best to keep on being healthy and productive. 

 

More Happy Fuel

Then, near the end of the week, I received another dose of happy fuel. Actually, it wasn’t a dose; it was more like thunder and fireworks.

Last Friday, I woke up knowing exactly what I had to do for the rest of my life.

I mean I didn’t arrive at that conclusion from nothing. I had been mulling over it for years. Heck, for all my life. However, in April, I mulled over it with the help of new insights gained from purposeful personal development (reading self-help books, making lifestyle changes, listening to advice).

Up until Friday, I was still indecisive about my great big plans in life. I didn’t know what I really wanted to do. In fact, I couldn’t even decide whether I wanted to do anything. Couldn’t I just live simply and comfortably in this idyllic resort town I call my home? Many people do. I don’t need great big plans!

 

Great Big Plans

But Great Big Plans had different ideas and it chose last Friday to tell me so.

“Hey,” it shook me awake quite violently. “Hey! Wake up! I have something to tell you!”

“Huh? What?” I said, bleary-eyed, wary of auditory hallucinations from sleep deprivation.

“You are going to write books,” it said, “Lots of them! It doesn’t matter if you sell one copy or a million copies. You will write books for the rest of your life!”

“What?” I said, “I don’t…… what?”

“And then, you will start a charity that encourages children to love reading books because it will make a better future society.

“What are… huh? No! Now…… what?!?!”

Then, great big plans sprinkled some fairy dust or something, I don’t know, all over my face, waking me up from my dreams courtesy of a sneezing fit.

When the dust settled, my eyes were opened.

 

The Joy of Purpose

I mean, I could have been suffering a manic episode of bipolar disorder (which my psychologist told me four years ago I didn’t have), but I reeled with excitement all day. I couldn’t concentrate on anything. I was so bursting with positive energy you could get zapped standing 10 feet from me.

I knew what I wanted to do and I couldn’t wait to do it!

I spent the rest of my weekend planning my new goal (creating a roadmap) of writing my first novel, with absolutely no idea what I was going to write and even how to write a whole freaking novel.

It was the most exciting weekend I can remember in a long time.

 

Now…

It’s been 10 days since Great Big Plans visited and I still have not wavered in my conviction. That is, not significantly. There were a few evenings when I was tired and allowed doubt to creep in. “What was I thinking? I can’t write a book omg!”

I know my mind; it’s full of trickery. It could very well show up tomorrow and yell at me.

“Happy April’s Fool! Mwahahaha. That wasn’t Great Big Plans; that was just little ol’ me! Haha! Oh wait, it’s May. Oh never mind, you’re a fool! Mwahahaha. You should be a hermit! Goodbye!”

I wouldn’t put it past the mind gremlin to do that. It’s an entity of its own and it’s evil.

But, you know what? I am 5% from achieving nirvana (according to that delusional part of my mind that thinks I’m supergirl). I can beat this. If the mind gremlin so much as pokes its ugly snout out of its dark forest of depravity, I will pull it out and strangle the life out of it and dump it in the trash and set fire to it and call down thunder and lightning on it and then make it listen to Let It Go on repeat for eternity while locked in a metal dungeon with no windows. 

How about that, evil mind gremlin? You’re not welcome, ever! I have books to write!

Lots, apparently!

Great!